Sunday, October 11, 2015

Where I Admit That Bill Baker Was Right

1) I'm not putting down fanny packs. I actually like fanny packs as off-body carry devices and have used on in the last couple of weeks. I do have a couple of over the shoulder bags that I want to experiment with next week.

2) The scariest thing so far is the loss of mobility. I've said, "Get off the 'X'" a lot of times over the years. I've practiced moving and shooting for a long time…if I can just buy a couple of seconds on the bad guy's OODA loop, that's all I (hopefully) need.

But what if that option is removed?

The reason I'm in this fix is because my knee failed. What should have been an embarrassing and ouchie everybody has a good laugh fall ended up in emergency surgery and 3-4 months of rehab. The knee failed. My quad is now stitched back to my kneecap (and pieces of my kneecap had to be cut out!), and until it is fully healed, it will fail again. There is damn little I can do about that. Regardless of which angle of the circle I choose to move, as soon as I put a lot of stress on the knee the quads will rip loose. I have had this explained that as WE ARE NOT JOKING ABOUT THIS, MICHAEL! Yes, I can make myself blow though the pain, but yes, I will end up on the floor anyway.

So my strategy has to shift. Yes, I need to plan to move toward cover, but it's not going to be a sprint. I am not motion stable. I am currently using a Ka-Bar aluminum cane most of the time, which is a formidable weapon in its own right (and I've already started working with it). I have shifted to carrying at least one auto-opening knife. I need to be able to deliver force immediately, to figure out a way to buy that 2 seconds on the other guy's OODA loop.

3) The Zen of the Shoulder Holster. I've learned a ton about shoulder holsters in the last few weeks. First off, right now I am wearing a Ken Null SMZ shoulder holster. I've been wearing it for several days…it is the lightest, most comfortable shoulder holster I have EVER used. It is also the most irritating. The release involves pushing, twisting, holding your mouth in a certain position, and mumbling something from The Book of the Dead. It's quick when you get it. You're dead if you don't

It conceals under a pullover shirt…amazing!

Right now I am carrying a Ruger LCR in 9mm, the one that loads from moon clips. I believe the LCR will stand as one of the greatest small revolver ever made. The trigger pull is world class for a small frame revolver; my experience with 4 of them has been that they are fiercely accurate and easy to shoot. I believe the polymer frame soaks up some of the recoil. I have shot them in .38, .357, 9mm and I have one of the new .327s waiting at the FFL.

By way of comparison, I own S&W, Charter Arms and Taurus snubs. I have shot numerous Colts, Chiappa Rhinos, Rossis and some of the real exotics. The Ruger LCR is the best snub I've ever shot.

[BS WARNING: Ruger is currently a sponsor; at various time both Taurus and Charter have been on board. I have visited the Ruger, Colt, Taurus, Rossi and S&W factories]

Still, the LCR puts them all to shame. I had considered carrying the new .327 because:

1) I like the cartridge, hence,have a bunch laying around
2) Six shots instead of 5

However, my friend Bill Baker called me out on that. Bill is a fine instructor and shooter in his own right. He and I go back to high school together, and I once had a thing for his sister.

Bill asked quite legitimately why, as someone who has been a big proponent of 9mm revolvers, I'd choose a .327 over the moon-clipped 9mm. I think the words "full of dookey," or something of that nature, were mentioned. He noted that I had been a proponent of 9mm revolvers, largely because of ammunition compatibility and the ability to use moon clips. So, he asked, "What's changed?"

Answer…nothing. Hypnotized by new gun and a caliber I'm fond of. OTOH, I have both an LCR and a Charter Arms in 9mm, and I opted to carry the LCR with a few extra moon clips.

The Null SMZ is the equivalent of the pocket pistol I would normally toss in my pocket as soon as I put my pants on.  For the first couple of weeks, when I was on 2 crutches, I opted for a very different shoulder holster option. As I have mentioned here and on the podcast, Robert Humelbaugh of Survival Sheath Systems is, I believe the absolute genius of the shoulder holster.

This is redundant, but a few years back I asked Robert of build what i might call a "bug out" system. It consisted of a shoulder holster for a 629 .44 Magnum snub (the one I have was built by Jim Stroh of Alpha Precision and was a gift from my father). I would carry 2 speedloaders and on the off-side a unique SSS design to carry 24 rounds in an elastic pouch, along with the knife of your choice.

The idea is that if you gotta fight a war, you could fight it with what you had on your person. I know we all echo Clint Smith and say the purpose of a handgun is to fight your way to your rifle…but what if you can't? For the first few days, there was no way I could get to the heavy hardware. Here's an example…there was one day my Sweetie spent the day at a match. I'd just started walking with both crutches, but I was as slow as molasses at McMurdo Station. And terrified of dropping the crutches.

With the SSS "bug out" set-up, I had fighting tools — a .44 Magnum, 36 extra rounds of ammo and a 4-inch Buck Knife — with me all the time, and I didn't have to wrestle my crutches to get to them. When my Sweetie loaded me into the work truck for a trip into town, I threw a shirt over my t-shirt and it concealed perfectly.

Right now Robert is working on 2 new shoulder holsters for me…One for a Glock G26 on the left, with a spare G17 mag and a Spyderco Yojimbo 2, Michael Janich designed, on the off-side. He's also doing a chest holster for the Gemini Custom 3-inch Wiley Clapp GP-100 .357. It is a wonderful gun, and I think it would make a great hiking companion (yes…I am being optimistic). I have one of the SSS chest holsters for my .44 Charter Arms Bulldog, which replaced my S&W 296. Unfortunately, I smacked the Bulldog against a barricade and snapped off the front sight, which was a pinned-in plastic unit. It's still at the gun doctor having a steel replacement fabricated.

Once again, talk to Robert if you need a shoulder holster for a specialty issue. He is wonderfully creative, and his work is 100% first class.

I have a solid working unit I've used with my 4-inch Ruger Redhawks, a leather vertical shoulder holster made by my dear friends at Ted Blocker. Blocker made my cowboy leather, and I've used it for many, many years. It's more of a hiking/backcountry holster and I've easily concealed it under a fleece vest. Until I trashed my knee, it was my bear season hiker. I expect to be using it more.

I feel like I/m just tarting to scratch the surface of shoulder holsters; I'll keep you guys involved as I keep learning.

BTW, something went bump in the night tonight…not a big deal…a wind came up and knocked down a tree branch. As if by magic, my LCP 9mm was in my hand…once you get a grip,so to speak, on the SMZ result, it is fast!


Anonymous said...

just curious as to why you went wheelie for serious self defense. What were the steps that led you to that conclusion.

Michael Bane said...

Good question...not necessarily ration answers:
1) I shoot revolvers a lot and am comfortable with them.
2) On the Secret Hidden Bunker ranch, 35 acres, a revolver (usually at least a .357 or .44) is de riguer...on high bear season I think nothing of carrying a .454 Alaskan. When hiking the Colorado back country, I open carry a revolver, often times a Ruger Blackhawk.
3) The LCR /SMZ set-up is the alternative for my "pocket pistol." My goal is to be armed all the time, e.g., to put on my gun when I put on my pants. I dress as casually as possible--shorts & t-shirts at home. A lot of those short have internal " belts," not worth a damn for spcarrying anything. Hence, the pocket pistol.
4) I have found that I shoot a snub better than one of the new gen .380s (Sig 238 excepted...however, a single action pistol is by definition a holster gun, no matter how cute it is; an aside, part of my philosophy of carrying 2 guns is the ability to hand off the second gun to, say, my Sweetie if she's unarmed...I want a minimal point & click" interface for such a gun)
5) in the case of the 629 Set-up, it was designed ( and used) as an adjunct to a long gun on the road. The original thinking...which I've modified that being away from home without a rifle called for a little exrra firepower. Assuming a high capacity 9mm on the hip as the primary, a heavy caliber revolver in a shoulder rig made a logical adjunct. I think the .44 Magum is the most versatile cartridge in the world, including some fierce penetrators. The SSS system is brilliantly designed to easily carry much more ammo than you would think. It gives me options. If I gotta fight a running gun battle, I want the 9mm semi. If I have to make a shot on an animal, through cover or at a distance, I'll take the .44. The rig was pushed into service for my disability because I already had it. BTW, when Hamilton Bowen finishes my 2.75 inch .44 Redhawk, the rig is going back to Robert at SSS to be fitted for that gun, which I prefer to the 629.
6) my primary carry is a 9mm. I've carried a variety; lately the bulk of my shooting is with Glock 19s set up with Trij trying it the G26 in one of Robert's shoulder holsters and having crossdraw/driving holsters made as well.
7) ideally, I want the primary on my belt and a smaller secondary in my pocket or in a counter position.

Hope this makes's late!


Bill baker said...

Well. This is better than being on the cover of the ROLLING STONE. . . . . I am stunned and honored.
Apparently we had mutual "things" for each other's sisters as well.
Take care of that leg, Michael. Bionics can only do so much.

Bill Baker

_DonWorsham_ said...

Hey Michael...I see a small e-book coming out of all this "holster" experience. You might have time to get it in if you hold off doing FTG.

nj larry said...

Come on, just get yourself a Sam Browne belt and move forward. There was a reason he invented it... LOL

Ken G said...

" I do have a couple of over the shoulder bags that I want to experiment with next week" Now that sounds like a murse/man-bag! Get well real soon my friend!

Anonymous said...

Just use that "Simply Rugged" pancake holster that you have. It hugs the gun close and behind the hip; out of the way of crutches. Yet, it presents the gun's grip for a clean draw.

Keep it simple! Having "custom this" and "special-edition that" is cool, but it leaves us "commoners" out of the game. Don't over-think it.

Life Member

Anonymous said...

By the way, I've found that the best concealed-carry clothes are offered by Duluth Trading Company (""). They're "cut" longer in the torso length to cover "plumber's-crack", so they cover an OWB holster very well. Their stuff is also sized generously for work, but they also offer trim fit if you need that. It's all very well made and I've switched from my L. L. Bean flannels and even Carhartts to theirs. Their stuff is very well made and has lasted many forays at the range, in the woods and on the street. And some of their shirts, shorts and pants have extra hidden pockets that a small gun slides right into and remains easy to get to. Last, I do not work for them! I just recommend them highly so that they remain successful and available to us all.

Michael, for you, their work shirts have an armpit gusset that is perfect for when you use those crutches.

Life Member

Michael Bane said...

I like Duluth Trading a lot…the vests we use on TBD are from there.

I was not able to use any belt-mounted holster with crutches. I tried several, including Simply Rugged pancake. Was an issue of stability. My issue now is HUGE brace that will be with me until the knee replacement surgery. Yes, I have pants and jeans (Duluth Trading, BTW) that will fit over the brace, but the brace slips and needs adjustments. When I'm at home or out walking it's sweats/yoga pants with no belt. The Null shoulder holster I'm using is roughly the same price as a Simply Rugged pancake or a Blade-Tech kydex holster.

When I ask a holstermaker or company for something special, my hope is that the "special" will be something regular if you or someone else needs it. That has proven to be the case many times over the years. I've been ucky to meet a lot of people who got "the same one Michael Bane got" for an in-stock price!


Bob G said...


I've been reading your writings for a few years, and when I heard you talk to Tom Gresham about the LCR/SMZ setup, it was like a light bulb went on. I was looking for a way to carry a serious backup that doesn't get in the way, and I have past experience with the SMZ and liked it. You can even wear the SMZ more-or-less "tucked," by sort of gathering/blousing the shirt around the right side strap. I went with a loop at the end of mine, with the belt going through it.

Anyway, I immediately went out and hunted down an LCR-357, and I absolutely love it! Great carry revolver: much better than I'd previously thought. I have an SMZ for it on order. Thank you very, very much.


Sheepdog1968 said...

Hi Michael,
I was listening to your podcast from 01 Mar 2017 and it made me realize something. With the new job I now have, I primarily work from home. As such, there is no reason I can't be armed all of the time. For me, I wanted a shoulder holster for around the house as I think it will be more comfortable plus I can wear it on long drives. I recall you had made this long post on shoulder holsters so I went and found it again. I went with the Ted Blocker vertical shoulder holster (prefer not to muzzle folks). I got it in the same config for my carry gun (Glock 30SF in 45 ACP with XS sights). Bigger picture is that when I am out and about, I'd prefer to have two firearms on me (Louis Awerbuck used to drill that into my head - he carried 4). Might as well have them both be the same.

Oh, my IWB holster is a horse hide Milt Sparks and a Milt Sparks belts. This works really well for me. As best I can tell, the Ted Blocker vertical should holster looks to also be of outstanding quality.

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J.A.W. said...


It's now March 2018, are you still using your Ruger LCR 9mm?

I'm very interested to know if/how much testing you did for "crimp jump" on the ammo for this revolver.

I love Down Range Radio!

Leesburg, VA